PRINT journalists have a front row seat to the way technology can change a profession but the media industry is not the first to be forced into making adjustments to keep up.
Technological advancements in the 1920s film industry saw black and white silent movies replaced by ‘talkies’ and classic musical Singin’ in the Rain gives a satirical nod to this evolution.
The current Australian tour of the 2012 West End production was directed by Jonathan Church (Chichester Festival Theatre) and begins with a rocketing montage showcasing the glamour and politics of 1927 Hollywood.
Grauman’s Chinese Theatre is the perfect setting to introduce ‘romantic lovers of the screen’ Don Lockwood and Lina Lamont at the premiere for their latest film, The Royal Rascal.
Cosmo Brown (Jack Chambers), Don’s lifelong friend, arrives and we get a blast into the two friends’ past with a flashback to their Fit as a Fiddle vaudeville act.
Lockwood and Lamont are royalty of the silent film industry but as soon as Lamont (Erika Heynatz) speaks, it is clear that a high-pitched, grating voice like hers has no future in the new world of cinema.
It has taken two actors, Grant Almirall and Rohan Browne, sharing the role of Don Lockwood to fill the shoes of Adam Garcia (injured during the Melbourne season) who in turn filled the remarkable tap shoes of Gene Kelly in the 1952 film.
Rohan Browne was on stage the night of this viewing and shone like the movie star he was portraying.
Chambers’ comic timing and physical prowess in Make ’Em Laugh makes his audience do just that, the polished slapstick performance a standout among many in this hit-fuelled musical.
As is the Chambers and Browne toe-tapping Moses Supposes and Gretel Scarlett’s delivery of You Are my Lucky Star as Kathy Selden, a talented actress who refuses to play the Hollywood game.
Scarlett’s portrayal of Kathy is sublime and the ideal juxtaposition to leading lady Lina, another successful role added to Heynatz’s music theatre career.
The rustling of ponchos from the first few audience rows during Good Morning signals the musical’s title song is not far away.
As the rain falls down in Singin’ in the Rain, it is uncertain who has the most fun in the iconic scene: Browne splashing the audience, the front two rows getting soggy or everyone else gleeful in watching the soaking.
Those who don’t leave their seat at interval immediately after this scene will have the opportunity to watch the crew working feverishly to prepare the stage for act two, draining away the 6000 litres of recycled and treated water used each time it rains on stage (2000 litres fall from above and 4000 litres flood from below).
Despite these logistics, the rest of the set is streamlined and easily transforms from a film set to Hollywood Boulevard to a Monumental Pictures afterparty in seconds.
The orchestra is glimpsed high above; nestled in the Hollywood Hills.
Singin’ in the Rain is a cross-generational, uplifting visit to the theatre that will have you wishing for a little summer rain to recreate your own Don Lockwood moment.
It is showing at Crown Theatre Perth, December 31 to January 22.
The writer reviewed Singin’ in the Rain during the Brisbane season.